What do you want to be..?
My daughter and I had a long conversation the other day about what she wanted to be when she grew up.
Her answer – a vet, singer, actor, fashion designer, and inventor. You go, girl!
I was very fortunate that my parents never pushed me in any one direction. They let me figure it out on my own and encouraged all my interests.
So what did I want to be?
Once, I contemplated being a nun (for an entire 3 hours- then realized I just couldn’t do it!). Then for a long time, since I was a ferocious bookworm, I wanted to be a librarian.
But even before I discovered I had any talent, I wanted to be an artist.
What I didn’t want to be? A teacher. For 2 reasons- filmstrips and vomit. (The latter is the reason I didn’t want to be a doctor, either!) This makes me sound ancient- but when I was growing up there weren’t DVDs or even VCRs- just these stupid strips of film on a roll that every single teacher seemed to struggle with while winding onto the projectors. It looked like torture!
An artist- that, in my mind, equalled unbridled freedom. I obviously wasn’t one to seek wealth in a profession. Even then I knew that the key to success was happiness. (Though I must admit that now, as I grapple with how to make a living in my profession, I sometimes wonder why I hadn’t chosen to do something with a few more dollar signs attached to it!)
It wasn’t until middle school, however, that I discovered I had any talent for art beyond just liking to do it.
My middle school art teacher, a man I don’t remember having much affinity for and was even a little afraid of, encouraged my mom to enroll me in a summer art program. He must have seen some spark of talent, though I feel my work was rather average up to that point.
That class shook me awake. It was based on drawing from life through field trips to various locations- the zoo, a pretty row of houses, the art museum- and suddenly I discovered that I had a way of seeing things and an ability to draw what I saw on paper.
I had access to a language not everyone knew how to speak, and it made me feel special.
Up to that point, I was somewhat lost. I was the oldest of 4 kids and my parents were divorced. We lived with my mother who struggled to make ends meet, though always made sure we had what we needed. I was very shy and always had my nose in a book with wild short, curly hair- and for awhile I had braces and cheap plastic glasses.
I went through a very awkward stage for what seemed like a very long time.
But art became my escape pod.
At the age of 16 my mother remarried and we moved from Wisconsin to Virginia. Talk about culture shock! Again, art came to the rescue. I became involved in drama, choir, and art- even managing to win a few awards and scholarships.
When it came time to choose my college, it was a no brainer. I wanted to find a program that allowed me to create art to my heart’s content.
I chose The Cleveland Institute of Art (CIA) without blinking an eye or even touring the campus. (a visit from representatives from the college when I was a Sophomore still in Wisconsin made that much of an impression on me!)
Fast forward 25 years- I married a boy that I met on an adjoining campus after my freshman year. (He was a graduate student at Case Western Reserve U.) We were married 10 days after I graduated from CIA and moved to London two weeks afterwards so he could pursue a Post-Doctorate position there. I’ve been following him ever since to Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and finally, back here in Ohio. Along the way, we’ve had 3 beautiful kids.
For awhile I was a freelance illustrator (the major I ultimately chose at CIA), then became an art teacher. (Thankfully filmstrips became extinct and no one has yet to vomit in my class!) When we moved back to Ohio after my youngest daughter was born, I chose to put aside my art to concentrate on raising my family.
But one day, as my youngest was getting older and about to enter school, I revisited that question: What do you want to be when you grow up? I had what can be called a come to Jesus moment. I realized I had to get back to the art that I once had such a passion for, and I had to do it my way.
The question was, What is my way? Good question! Its still something I’m seeking but this (arms held wide) is the result. I’m doing it!
I have a lot of people to thank for helping me to answer that question- my husband for his endless support and love, my family, Kelly Dahl who became my life coach to get me started creating goals and seeing them through, and all my wonderful friends- You, who continue to encourage and support me on this quest.